Monday, September 14, 2020

How To Return Home

I had recently been trying to figure out how I could (most effectively? efficiently?) make the trip to Waterloo to visit Sunny. At the start of the pandemic I didn't worry about it too much. I had been to Canada in February, and normally would go every couple of months. By July, however, there were some health issues that weren't improving (don't worry, there will be so much more about those in subsequent posts). Given that Sunny had to go to the ER on August 18, it seemed prudent to hitch a ride to Canada when the opportunity presented itself, even though quarantine requirements meant I wouldn't be able to see Sunny until 14 days after my arrival in the country.

And so: on Thursday, August 20, just after 7 a.m., a jocular yellow Lab named Cruz and I piled into the cab of a U-Haul, driven by our friend Ben. We stopped briefly in the Bronx to have all of Ben's family's worldly possessions loaded into the truck, then made our way along various interstates to the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Lewiston. Within 2 hours of entering Canada, we were quarantining, along with Ben's wife (my beloved LFar) and their handsome son Gus, in a very suburban house in Waterloo.

Gus and Cruz were fast friends. Cruz and I slept on an air mattress in the basement and tried to stay out of the way of a family navigating a pandemic with a working-from-home parent in a city they'd only moved to out of necessity. A friend dropped off a case of wine from LCBO. We ordered a lot of frozen pizzas and bag salads from Instacart. I worked from the kitchen table, and when I needed to close a door, I did a few meetings from the master bedroom.

During our quarantine, Ben and I each received 3 calls from the Ontario government, only one of which was a robocall. The live callers were apologetic: Sorry to bother you, this will only take a few minutes. We are trying to stop the spread of COVID in Ontario and want to make sure you are quarantining. Do you have access to a washroom? Are you able to get outside? Thank you for your time, have a nice day.

On Day 14, in anticipation of spending Labour Day weekend with a friend who is immunocompromised, I did a drive-through COVID test. I assured them that, having recently returned from the U.S., I had completed my quarantine. I received the (negative) results within 2 days (incidentally, the same amount of time it had taken for my prior two test results in New York).

And a week ago, after a cottage weekend that approximated normal life (lake swimming, campfires, too much wine), I arrived at Sunny's.

During quarantine, I was out walking Cruz one day and I heard music. I assumed it was coming from a nearby backyard, but it followed me. I checked my phone and it turned out I had pocket-played a song called "How to Return Home" by Natalie Weiss. I had never heard this song before.

Your bare feet sliding on the old wooden floorboards,
Home just as you left it but still you're shaken,
Like walking into a museum somehow out of time.
It's all the same except the girl in the hallway,
Where she's been and who she will ripen into,
Your childhood's on the other side of a sprawling divide… too wide.

Take a silent breath.
Hold in the change.
Tell yourself you still live here.
Take your bags upstairs.
It's the only way you'll get through today.
Count the hours.
Take a shower.
Wash yourself away.

The house is pulsing with an alien heartbeat,
Was it always here but you never listened?
It's calling you to be the girl that you were way back then… again.

Take a silent breath.
Hold in the change.
Tell yourself you still live here.
Take your bags upstairs.
Put away your clothes, take it nice and slow.
Be their daughter.
Nothing's harder
When nobody knows
How to return home.


AliTee said...

Welcome back, my sweet G. I loved reading this and methinks it will definitely be a good exercise for your head and heart. All the love coming to you.

sandie said...

Thank you for sharing this, Gillian <3 It was lovely to read, and for some reason, made me want to cry. I once read that all writers tend to write toward home or away from home...and this sounds like the beginning of you writing toward home again.

Love always,

Candace said...

I'm so happy that you're writing here again. Much love to you.

Sarah D Bunting said...

Hello. This one hits today for sure. Miss you.

Brianna said...

Echoing all the sentiments above. Find some peace at home if you can xoxo.

kajal said...

At home in Rome as I read this and man, what a perfect pocket play and perfect time to share yourself again...big hug!